‘Glass’ Half Empty: Continuing the Glass Menagerie Film Survey (for Parterre Box)

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David Fox: Cameron, in our ongoing survey of Williams’ The Glass Menagerie on film, we now arrive at two productions done for television within a decade of each other, and in both cases, likely conceptualized specifically around the actress playing Amanda: Shirley Booth in 1966, and Katharine Hepburn in 1973. By rights, neither version should really be competitive with the feature films, which obviously had more time and larger budgets. But as with so much about this wonderful work, there are fascinating surprises in store. For one thing, the general limitations of TV production—even a certain stagey stiffness—actually suits the “memory play” aspects of TGM better than the more realistic movie medium. And if, in the end, neither of these versions completely works or rises to the top recommendation—for me, each has at least one disqualifier—each also has at least one superb element that I wouldn’t want to miss.

Cameron Kelsall: In a previous column, we spoke of the problems inherent in “opening up” a play like TGM, where the insular, almost hermetically sealed setting of the Wingfields’ tenement apartment exerts a literal and psychic weight on the characters. By necessity, neither television adaptation can really get away with doing that as the 1950 film adaptation—and, to a lesser degree, the 1987 follow-up—did. In the case of the ‘66 adaptation, which aired live on CBS, perhaps in a nod to the earlier genre of the teleplay, the performers and production crew were limited to a medium that forced them, for better or worse, to treat the experience as if they were performing the play. I think there’s a lot to be gained from considering it from that perspective…

Read the full discussion at Parterre Box. 

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